Summary: Many people seem to be content to trust their own efforts and religious practices to make them acceptable before God. We need to be aware that religious activities are only good when they express an inner reality.
Religion Without Reality Romans 2:17-29
Romans Series (Part 6)
Sermon by Don Emmitte, Grace Restoration Ministries
Take Your Bibles Please…
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Romans 2:17-29 ESV).
Have you noticed how we tend to make things very complicated? No matter how often I work with various legal advisors, I am constantly amused by the manner in which they can make things very complicated. Some years ago a friend, who is a very fine Christian attorney rewrote a verse of Scripture for me in what I call “legalese.” This is the language of our judicial system. See if you can recognize which very familiar verse it might be:
We respectfully petition, request, and entreat that due and adequate provision be made, this day hereinafter subscribed, for the satisfying of this petitioner’s nutritional requirements and for the organization of such methods as may be deemed necessary and proper to assure the reception by and for said petitioner of such quantities of baked cereal products as shall, in the judgment of aforesaid petitioners constitute a sufficient supply thereof.”
What’s your guess? Well, it’s taken from the Gospel of Matthew. We know it a little simpler as: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (cf. Matthew 6:11). The Bible is simple. Even though it deals with very complex issues and beliefs, it is written in such a way that every man may come to understand the love of God expressed in the grace and work of Christ. Certainly this is the apostle’s motivation in dealing with the need for religious men to be saved.
Does that sound odd? Does it seem strange to think that religious men need saving? It shouldn’t. Religion by itself can never make a man acceptable before God. To prove this point, Paul uses the most religious people in the world in as a case study. The Jewish man of Paul’s day was sincerely devoted to his religious beliefs and practices. In the Pharisaic sect of Judaism, the outward form of religion came to an apex. They had made it into an art form! Yet, their religion had no reality. In spite of the fact that it was based on a revelation of the one true God, it still had no reality. Though they had a true religious form, they were still in need of the righteousness which only God can bestow on men through Christ.
There have been many polls through the years, some published quite recently, which describe the religious conditions in America. The most shocking of all the statistics for me are those that show the majority of Americans believe in God, and yet, only a few of those would say that their beliefs made any difference in the manner in which they live. Many people seem to be content to trust their own efforts and religious practices to make them acceptable before God. We need to be aware that religious activities are only good when they express an inner reality. Paul’s words to the church at Rome are particularly helpful at this point. He lists three characteristics of religion without reality:
First, Religion without Reality Emphasizes Privileges (v. 17).
Religious men are inclined to put a selfish interpretation on all their privileges. Paul writes:
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? (v. 17).